Two polls, two different results, and disappointing opposition politicians

In the last couple of days the results of two new public opinion polls on party preferences appeared: Ipsos on November 18 and Medián today. According to Ipsos, Fidesz-KDNP and LMP gained and the left lost, both by an inconsequential 1%. Medián’s survey, by contrast, found more substantial shifts, and in the opposite direction. Fidesz-KDNP lost 4% of its support in one month and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party, DK, became as strong as E14-PM.

Let us examine these results a little more closely. According to Ipsos, Fidesz-KDNP’s support among the electorate as a whole is 27% while MSZP’s is 15%. As for the other parties, 7% of the eligible voters support Jobbik, 3% Együtt-PM, and only 2% LMP and DK.

As for voter commitment, according to Ipsos only 36% of the electorate is certain that they would cast a vote rain or shine. And that is very low. In this group Fidesz-KDNP leads by a mile: they would receive 51% percent of the votes against MSZP’s 26%. Jobbik voters are also deeply committed to their cause and therefore show good results in this category.

Somewhat larger changes occurred in the last month or so among the 42% of the voters who call themselves undecided. Within that group the size of “the completely passive voters” decreased by 3% while the number of those who have a preference but refuse to divulge what it is grew from 8% to 11%.

And let’s pause a bit to expand on these last figures. According to Tibor Závecz, the man in charge of the monthly Ipsos polls, the pool of “secretive voters” is large, about 900,000. Although these people might not want the pollsters to know their political views, the poll takers ask indirect questions that can be quite revealing. Based on answers to these indirect questions, Závecz claims that at  least two-thirds or even three-quarters of the secretive voters actually sympathize with the left.

Moving on to Medián, I’ll compare the still very sketchy outlines of this month’s results to Medián’s October figures. What we must keep in mind is that the October results reflect the situation before the October 23 mass meeting and the public demand there for unity among the forces on the left. The attendees wanted to broaden the arrangement Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy worked out to the exclusion of other parties and groupings. At that time Fidesz had a 36% share in the electorate as a whole and 52% among those who would definitely vote at the next elections as opposed to MSZP’s 14% and 21%. Együtt2014-PM still polled relatively well: 5% in the electorate as a whole and 7% among committed voters. DK at this point was weaker than E14-PM: 3% among all voters and 4% among committed voters.

red = the whole electorate;
black = those with a party preference;
orange = will definitely vote

And what is the situation today, after the mass demonstration?  Fidesz has a 34% share among all eligible voters and among the sure voters only 48%. That is a 2%/4% loss in one month. MSZP ticked up 2% in the electorate at large and remained unchanged among committed voters. E14-PM’s support eroded by 1%: last month’s 5% and 7% are 4% and 6% today. DK, on the other hand, as many people predicted, inched up and now matches Együtt2014-PM’s levels of support: 4% and 6%. If these numbers are more than a one-off, Gordon Bajnai who just the other day referred to those who were left out of the election agreement as small parties as opposed to his own might have to revise his estimate of the situation.

And this brings me to a couple of interviews György Bolgár conducted yesterday and today. Bolgár’s program lasts two hours and consists of a mixture of interviews and listener comments. Yesterday the whole first hour was devoted to a interview with Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy. Their performances were disappointing. My own feelings were exactly the same as those of Zsófia Mihancsik and Ferenc Krémer in today’s Galamus. Mihancsik’s article was entitled “This way there is no hope,” and Krémer called his “Sadness.” Shall I say more?

Attila Mesterházy took an unyielding position, standing by the arrangement that E14-PM and MSZP worked out. All other parties, including DK that is by now as strong as E14, should be satisfied with their sorry lot and support the two of them. I wonder what Mesterházy will do if in a couple of months it turns out that E14’s support has eroded further while DK has again gained.

I strongly suggest that those who can handle Hungarian listen not only to the interviews but also to the comments that followed. It is strange that these opposition politicians refuse to heed the voice of the electorate. They didn’t believe that the demonstration for unity was genuine and now surely they will say that all listeners of Klubrádió are DK supporters. How long can that fiction be maintained?

The MSZP argument for excluding DK is their conviction that Ferenc Gyurcsány’s presence on the ticket would take away more votes than it would bring in. However, a September survey, also by Medián, indicates that this is not the case. I wrote about this poll at length back in September. It is hard to figure out why Mesterházy clings to that, in my opinion, mistaken notion.

Today György Bolgár had a shorter interview with Klára Ungár, chairman of Szabad Emberek Magyarországért Liberális Párt or SZEMA, one of the three liberal groups. SZEMA’s support is immeasurably small.

I personally like Klára Ungár, but this interview highlighted the dysfunctions that pervaded SZDSZ (Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége). The party fell apart because of internal squabbling, political differences, and personal animosities. Things haven’t changed since. It was clear from Ungár’s interview that she would refuse any cooperation with the other liberals, that is with Gábor Kuncze’s group and Gábor Fodor’s new liberal party. Ungár, who hasn’t been active in politics since 1998, feels very virtuous and insists that other SZDSZ politicians should not only admit responsibility for Viktor Orbán’s rise to power but should simply disappear from political life.

So, this is the situation at the moment. A change of strategy is desperately needed as soon as possible. But after listening to Bajnai and Mesterházy I see no possibility of such a change in the near future. Meanwhile time is running out.

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“Yes, I would like to see him/her in an important political role”

Orban – Fidesz: 43%
Bajnai – E14: 37%
Mesterházy – MSzP: 34%
Karácsony – PM: 31%
Vona – Jobbik: 30%
Vadai – DK: 28%
Gyurcsány – DK: 24%
Schiffer – LMP: 24%

Ungar does not worth a sentence. Her whatever is less than immeasurable, just as Gabor Fodor’s. It is ridiculous even to think that there is any political mileage by concluding “agreements” with these people, as not even self-described liberals care about them. The negotiations with them are a complete alibi, a substitute act for the real actions which do not take place. By concluding these “agreements” Együtt or MSZP just display yet again a lack of sense of reality. Fidesz’ strategy of coopting civil organizations was way better, because Fidesz coopted (or directly set up) civil society organizations with a brand name (Nagycsaládosok Egyesülete comes to mind, or the Batthyány Circle of Professors, see even the clever professors think Fidesz is best) which gave them perceived legitimacy. What added value or legitimacy are attained by having the support of Ungar or Fodor, especially when additional support should come from the rural regions not from Budapest. But they are afraid of doing the uncomfortable, like going to the countryside, so they are doing something else instead that looks like acting. I don’t think it matters much now what MSZP and Együtt say about any further cooperation. I am sure that they… Read more »

Isn’t. whatever.


Matt: But it’s not just about what Eva says, namely, if Gyurcsány would bring or take away. It would most definitely take away from Mesterházy’s positions. He is playing his cards very well, one can think whatever about him morally, he is the only person on the left who knows how to play this game for real. The MSZP leadership is ****less about him (probably rightly from their point of view, I wouldn’t trust him either).

I don’t think anybody on the left is serious about winning 2014 (except probably poor Bajnai, who can go back hiding under a rock after a defeat, he has been outplayed badly). MSZP wants Gyurcsány to fail and fall out of parliament so that he wouldn’t bother them ever again. Gyurcsány wants his party to make it on their own while being able to blame MSZP for the lack of unity. These people are fighting each other to the death for the best starting position after 2014 and if I had to make a bet, I’d put my money on GYF seeing how bad the socialists are at this game.

Jano, I see your points, but there will be no post-2014 for the left if the left does not reach at least an almost-win situation in 2014. Given the maths under the new election system, it will be be impossible for a party caucus of 10 people to appear with any meaningful presence as a viable opposition force (to appear in the media, to attract campaign finance, to recruit supporters in the countryside who are not afraid of Fidesz, to recruit a younger generation of supporters etc.). Gyurcsány is almost certain to get in the Parliament, because there is no negative campaign that has not been used against him already, so I don’t really see why he would not reach at least 5% with the momentum he has (which in itself would translate into a caucus of 3 persons out of 200). Mesterhazy miscalculates because he starts from a bad presupposition: that MSZP is still the default opposition of Fidesz, and so sooner or later the pendulum will swing back and he only has to wait it out. I am pretty sure that that is not the case any more, because there is huge flux on the left and actually… Read more »

Andy Vajna just received a 1.6 billion gift from Orban. In the past, as the only private casino owner of Hungary, he paid 1.9 billion a year in taxes and concession fees. This was reduced to about 0.3 billion from November 14. The ten new, Fidesz-selected casino owners will have the same tax relief.

(Technically, the concession fees can now be subtracted from the taxes. For instance, Vajna paid 1.1 in taxes + 0.8 in concession fees, from now on, he has to pay 1.1 – 0.8. This is just a sign change, isn’t it?

This reminds me of the case of the Fidesz-selected tobacco concession owners:
the mandatory profit margin was raised from 3% to 10% for them.

This is sad, very sad. And not only for all the reasons that had already been said. I lived abroad for nearly 40 years, most of it in the UK. I was engaged in politics there and learnt that electorates are very, very, VERY fickle. Other than a small number of committed bigots and real headcases who hold grudges, the population at large forgets and is fairly easily manipulated, even when they are a lot more cultured, intelligent and educated than the average Hungarian voter. This may sound very cynical, but any politician worth his/her salt should know – especially with 900,000 don’t knows – that in the last year, even 6 months before an election, a brave, charismatic, interesting sounding leader with a group round him/her that gauges the mood of the electorate correctly can make enormous strides forward, whatever went before. He/she can cause a real upset at election time. If these idiots who cannot see past their own inferiority complexes and narrow emotions can’t see that, then a very sorry four years are coming. I am fairly sure that Gyurcsany will go from strength to strength between now and next April. Precisely because of what I said… Read more »
andy "we losing it"
Straight talk: The slowness in coalescing of the left shows in naked form the true human and psychological issues Hungary faces in its daily struggle to get from one point to the next. The painful thruth is that much is upside down and lacks clear thinking and reasoning. Whether you face the bureacrats in the offices, the Hungarian colleagues in the office, my professional personal contacts, peoples behavior lacks the accepted norms of the West. This sounds hard to believe but all information gathered over the years during my day to day activities point to this issue. The average Hungarian is lazy to understand logical thinking and lacks the most basic understanding of economics. The average voter is being led by one-syllable outdated historical concepts and unable to fathom anything more complex than this. Everything goes on an emotional level. If you explain for more than two logical steps, you have overstretched the average person’s capacity or patience to be influenced, even if his own survival is at stake. Seems like this is also why Hungary has repeatedly been on the losing end of every historical conflict it has stepped into. 5 months til the April 6 elections. Fidesz’s coffers… Read more »

I have to agree with andy and only partially with JGrant!

A bunch of losers against a propaganda machine with lots of cash – if anything should come up that implicates Fidesz in the next months , they’ll turn it around against the opposition. Just as they did with the Baja incident where nobody remembers the original reason for the second election after that video has been shown on tv a thousand times …

The opposition is just “spellbound staring at the snake” (That’s a German saying – I don’t know the English equivalent).

My optimistic guess for the outcome of the elections:

30 Jobbik and 40 member for the “combined left ” (what an oxymoron …) including LMP against 130 Fidesz and – what’s the name of their coalition partner again? …

And I wouldn’t be surprised if Fidesz won again a two thirds majority …


Another 250-300 billion (!) HUF (from the EU funds) to the historical churches.

(People will say that, no, churches can’t receive EU funding — well, yes, but the state is allowed to receive the funds, so simply the state will spend the above amount from its own budget, so legally it will be OK. Get this EU! Muhhahahaha).

Fidesz dares to privatize power to the Christian churches or to the Art Academy — they have long term vision.

The above amount would be enough for decades (and for many Békemenet type demonstrations), but most importantly it would allow further school acquisitions.

Fidesz thinks in decades and it will work out just fine. They will reeducate the nation, they have time.

Sooner or later the entire Hungarian national education will be privatized/outsourced to the churches.


“a brave, charismatic, interesting sounding leader with a group round him/her that gauges the mood of the electorate correctly”

As the nearest we’ve got to that is Gy, the best we can do is find a bookie still prepared to give us odds on a Fidesz victory and put all our savings on it.


Woolfi – our equivalent would be the rabbit in the middle of the road hypnotised by the oncoming headlights.

Although I’m sure we say it a little more succinctly than that!

Hope all is well with you and yours, by the way.


@Wolfi, Paul: “A deer in the headlights”–at least in the US.

Marika: and the best thing is that the left will never be able to take back the schools. Check, mate. First, pursuant to the Vatican treaty (just updated and increased the obligations of the state) the acquired church-run schools are entitled (as this is an international treaty it even takes precedence over the Hungarian constitution) to receive the same, if not more state budget, that is taxpayer funding. And the Hungarian left will never take them back (or taken on the churches in any way) because it fears it would be said to be carrying out a “communist nationalization” a “godless communist war on religion” and the Hungarian left is terrified that will then be branded as “The Communists”. (Of course the left does get branded anyway as communists, and forever will be, but it still makes the left extremely timid, without pride, permanently apologizing and, slowly they are giving away their own basis…) Anyway, an ever increasing slice of the formerly public education is now owned by the churches and we can mostly thank the Hungarian left for that (Gyula Horn’s Vatican treaty which the Socialists themselves wanted and which the Czecz resisted and their hopeless fear from the… Read more »

Eva:”I have very strong feelings on the subject. I find it a dreadful development for the future of the coming generations”

So do I, but I’m a little bit optimistic about the kids. The churches and the government think that this way they will be able to raise religious adults. For all intents and purposes, this is not going to happen. Kids will have something to rebel against, to ridicule or to even hate. Of course, educational progress is not going to happen either which is indeed very sad.


Dear Eva,

Autocracy is at work.
The net result is that only hundreds saw Gyurcsany’s interview online, instead of hundreds of thousands on public television.

There are pros and cons in comparing the political situation in one country to that of another (especially with Orbán/Fidesz having changed things so dramatically), but here, for what it’s worth is the UK experience of a similar dark night of the soul for the Left: A little background first : From 1802 to 1923, Politics in the UK was dominated by Tories (Conservatives), and the Whigs (Liberals). There was no left-right split (in modern terms), differences were based on policies (e.g. free trade), tradition and alliances. The first avowedly left-wing party (Labour) only entered Parliament in 1900. Labour’s formed its first (minority) government in 1922. And, although this only lasted 10 months, the following election saw the collapse of the Liberal vote and the polarisation of UK politics into left and right. After WW2, the era of ‘modern politics’ began with a Labour landslide. But in 1951 Labour were victims of our crazy voting system – despite winning the popular vote, they lost the election by 26 seats. After that brief interlude, the Conservatives (“the natural party of government”) were in power for 13 long years. But Labour eventually won again in 1964 and were then in power for… Read more »

“They command by having installed fear in practically all employees everywhere.”

Two imponderables-
1. How many of the present “don’t knows” are in reality “I am terrified of the regime finding out how much hate them”
2. How many of that group will have the courage to vote next year.

Paul, very interesting description. But I think that the parallels with Hungary cannot be taken too far. The political scene has not developed as “naturally” as in the UK, the political ideas of the broad public are underdeveloped compared with the UK. Reading this from LSuppe: “And the Hungarian left will never take them back (or taken on the churches in any way) because it fears it would be said to be carrying out a “communist nationalization” a “godless communist war on religion” and the Hungarian left is terrified that will then be branded as “The Communists”. (Of course the left does get branded anyway as communists, and forever will be, but it still makes the left extremely timid, without pride, permanently apologizing and, slowly they are giving away their own basis…)” is just an example of ideas about politics that I find depressing. Is the ONLY thing of relevance whether you are BRANDED “Communist”? What Hungary also needs is to find some understanding between the several parts of the society that they indeed wish to form one common society of Hungarians, one that can accommodate more ideas than just those of the so-called right or left. So for me… Read more »

News about the secret trial of the judge who dared to rule against the propaganda interests of the Orban government and who was fired shortly after:


Three huge differences with the UK, both at present and historically: (i) fundamental respect for the freedom of choice for all, this extending to there being no real problem with friends, family members, colleagues, partners etc voting differently and openly and civilly discussing those differences – not branding the other side as ‘traitors’ etc; (ii) real and huge regional cultural difference (let us consider Scotland, NW England, and almost everywhere else, which tends to be much stronger and longer-lasting than any national poll); (iii) a properly inquisitive media with an (in general) fair dissemination of information and news for voters.


Here is a third poll from Fidesz’s own Szazadveg, taken in November 2013.

Fidesz 30%
Jobbik 7%
Democratic opposition [my term, LMP included] 24%
other parties 2% [which parties?]
uncertain 37%

As I tried to make clear, I don’t for one minute think that the situation in the 70/80s in the UK and the current mess in Hungary can be treated as parallels. But I think there could be some elements of similarity – the main ones being the impact events have on the losing side (which were/are far deeper and longer lasting than anyone suspected). Interestingly, we had a mini-parallel of our own when Blair won his landslide and the Tories disintegrated. At the time, it seemed like they would never get back into power again either. And, in a way, they didn’t. They had to make themselves look very ‘soft-right’, even green, before their poll figures recovered – and even then, they only managed it in coalition with the Liberals – and with Labour largely being blamed for the global economic collapse. Had the 2008 crash not happened, it’s likely that Cameron would never have been PM, and the Tories would still be tearing themselves apart in the political wilderness. Even now, after 3 years in power, and with a partial recovery in the economy, their future still looks very uncertain. Labour have been consistently ahead of them in… Read more »